Ryan studied his reflection in the mirror while he waited. He did not know what he expected when he agreed to this ‘one night stand’ with the woman who had been eating at his craw for hours now. But being left waiting in the hotel room that was practically a mirror image of his own just two floors above was not it.
He shook his head as he once more considered the sanity of this course of action. It was nothing like him. Hell, even if McBride Industries did not have a fraternization policy, the agency that was his real employer did. What the fuck was he doing sleeping with what amounted to a suspect or, at best, a witness?
The thing was he had never actually had a ‘one night stand.’ Not even back in the days when he was a ‘pup,’ and he and his friends trolled the bars in Coronado. The idea of casual sex with someone you barely knew did not appeal to him. It probably came from never knowing his father. His mother would never so much as give him a name.
As odd as it was in this world, he was a relationship kind of guy. Love and commitment were what he craved. If his career, first with the Navy and now the agency, had limited his ability to find such a thing, he was only thirty-four. There would be plenty of time for that later; he tried to reassure himself.
Maybe it was the jealousy that he had felt watching his cousin Rex with his mate and her daughter? He loved his cousin and wished the man nothing but the happiness he so richly deserved. And goodness knows that Jaycee Riley and her little girl deserved a few breaks in this world.
He would not even be here now, if not for the woman’s help. The agency had been trying for years to connect her ex-husband and McBride. But knowing that the men were corrupt and having the evidence to get the warrants to further their investigation was another matter. Jaycee’s testimony had given them that link. At least enough of one to justify putting him undercover for a few months.
Whether it was his fatherless childhood or seeing his cousin’s loving relationship should not matter. He should put all of that aside — all his hopes and dreams for the kind of family he had never had. He had been lying to himself for years that he had time. What were a few more months at this point? He should walk out that door now. He should focus on the job he came here to do. And not on a woman that had his guts in knots and his cock harder than a diamond.
But none of that mattered, not this once in his life. This one night, he was going to follow his gut and not the rules. Or he would if she got the hell out of that bathroom. What was taking the woman so long? Because every moment, that she spent preening in front of the mirror in the bathroom, was one more that his logical brain had to argue with his heart. And he was hanging on by a thread.
Laura stared at the woman in the mirror. The same way that she had all night. Hell, for months, perhaps since before her last birthday. She was certain that her shrink would find some Freudian or maybe Jungian meaning in that. But hadn’t she spent enough time and money on the damned woman exploring all this already? Now, it was time for action, not more fucking reflection.
“What’s your problem?” Her hand trembled as she brought it up to her face. She pushed her hair back for a moment, studied those tiny lines that were barely visible around her eyes. There was nothing wrong with her appearance as she stood wearing nothing but matching bra and panties from an upscale lingerie shop.
The black bra lifted her b-cup tits, pushing them together to form a decent cleavage. The matching lace panties both fully covered and were sheer enough to reveal. There was no point in touching up her make-up. Hopefully, it would get smudged soon from the sweaty exertion of sex.
That was the problem. In the two decades since she had lost her virginity at a frat party to her boyfriend of six months, she had never once engaged in casual sex. The double fear of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy had been more than enough to keep her celibate between her two relationships.
If you called a drawer full of vibrators celibate. Laura was neither frigid nor a fool. Battery operated boyfriends were the smartest and most economical way to go for the modern career woman. Even the hassle of storing and changing batteries was minuscule when stacked against… Well, against this.
The very idea of walking out there – wearing nothing but her underwear, and having sex with a man she had met just two hours ago – was more daunting than the interview that had landed her an internship with McBride. Or even her first presentation before the board.
This was truly terrifying, which was why she had been hiding in the bathroom for the past ten minutes. Ten minutes? Was he even still out there? In his position, she was not sure that she would be.
She shook her head at the woman in the mirror, “If you want this baby, then you better get your butt out there before he leaves.” The idea of waiting another month only to repeat this whole damned process was more than Laura could handle.
Ryan had just about convinced himself that this was all a sign from Fate that this was a bad idea. He had even picked up his coat and turned towards the door to leave when the bathroom door opened. The jacket slipped from his numb fingers as the air left his lungs in a giant swoosh.
She was stunning. Perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Petite…was that the word? She would barely reach mid-chest, now that she had shed the heels. While her breasts were not large, they would fill his hand nicely. But it was the soft roundness of her womanly hips that held his gaze. And those legs that were surprisingly long for someone so short. He imagined what they would feel like wrapped about his waist as he buried his cock inside of her. Yeah, this woman had his number.
She dropped her head as she walked the short distance to stand in front of him. Her hair that she had kept so neatly hidden in that tight bun at the back of her neck fell about her face, neck, and shoulders like a soft, chocolate fountain. Its rich browns laced with deeper burnished reds. He ached to touch it. To entwine it around his fingers and never let it go.
She looked up at him with those soft brown eyes. Gone was the confident, self-assured feminist that he had met in the bar, the one in the file. Before him stood a woman, a real one. Someone that you loved and protected. Someone you cherished and cared for. He wanted to scoop her up in his arms and run as far and as fast as he could from this place. He wanted to spill the whole can of beans about McBride, wanted to warn her of the corruption and deception that was to come.
That scared the shit out of Ryan. It was a completely new and foreign concept. Not at all like the lukewarm feelings that he had for his handful of previous girlfriends and partners. But something in his ‘golden gut’ told him that this woman and this night were special. Unforgettable. Once in a lifetime.
But even then, he knew he could do none of those things he wanted so desperately. He could not blow his cover, endanger national security, risk their lives, and others. Not even for her.
No, this night was all he would have. All he could ever have of this woman. Just a taste of heaven that would have to last him a lifetime. Because when tomorrow came, when he fired her from the career that she had spent a lifetime building, well, there was no doubt – Laura Valeria Garcia Reynolds would never want to see him again.
He cursed Fate that had shown him what he was missing, even as he reached out and touched her hair for the first time. He rubbed it between his fingers for a moment. Nothing had ever felt as soft or silky. He wondered how her olive skin would compare. His hand started at her shoulder, skimmed softly down her arm to her fingertips. He laced his fingers through hers and slowly raised her hand to his lips. “Beautiful,” he whispered as her eyes held his.
Laura smiled, a tiny bit of the tension left her shoulders. She had not been sure what she expected. But this was not it. The man, Ryan, she corrected herself, stared at her. His eyes were tender almost. Hell, the whole thing could have been a chapter in one of her sister’s tawdry romance novels. She wondered what her colleagues and friends would think if they saw her tablet.
But this was no story. There was a purpose to this night — something she wanted to get from it. And romance had nothing to do with that. However, it might be sweet icing on her cake. She needed to get this show moving, though. As cold as that sounded, the minutes and hours that were ticking by diminished her chances of getting what she came for from this man. Her baby.
Laura might not have had many lovers, be the sexual barracuda that some of her friends were, but luckily for her, she had learned to be the aggressor with Stewart. Although she may have wished the man were more passionate, she was thankful now for the skills she had learned. Laura stepped forward just a bit until her body brushed against his. She stared up at the man. She was still a bit shocked by that passionate gaze, but she managed to whisper, “Kiss me.”
And the world tilted on its axis as those strong arms closed about her like chains. His lips were soft against hers — firm but teasing. Her hands wrapped about his shoulders, holding on as the room spun about her. She moaned softly in frustration. She wanted, needed, more from this man. She wanted things that no other lover had ever given her.
She got them as his tongue forged into the depths of her mouth. Her nipples hardened as they brushed the hot cotton and thin silk layers that stood between them. It was too much, too many clothes between them. Her hands slipped from those broad shoulders and began to tug at buttons, tear at the material.
His hand moved from the hollow of her spine up to her bare back, sending more electrical sparks skittering to her brain. He found the snap of her bra and fumbled with it as she managed to free his shirt from the waistband of his pants. Four hands pawed and pushed at the offensive clothing.
At last, he managed to undo the clasp as she conquered the final button. She pushed at his shirt, and the motion sent her bra sliding along her arms. Her nipples brushed against the wiry hair of his chest. They tightened, even more, sending butterflies flying straight to her clitoris. She knew that she had never wanted a man this badly.
Her fingers began to fumble with his belt, the buttons, and zipper on his pants. This was no delicate seduction. This was a frenzied need that Laura had never felt before. It took her far longer than she would have liked to finish the job as she pushed pants and underwear down. He shifted from side to side as he kicked off shoes. The pants followed them. Only his mouth upon hers, his tongue inside it, made it bearable. Just barely.
Then she was falling, falling through time and space into the clouds. His body covered hers as he pushed her panties down one leg. He lifted it and wrapped it around his waist. He ground against her. She moaned and arched into him. He was considerably larger than her former fiancé had been, about the size of her special friend as she called the rabbit vibrator, which she used when she was her horniest. And she was definitely her horniest.
But that was no vibrator throbbing against her clit, slipping back and forth between her wet folds. Playing and teasing, just holding back what she wanted most. She arched her hips to feel the tip move just inside of her.
Then his hand upon her hips stilled her. She opened her eyes to stare up at him in shocked surprise. “Fuck,” he cursed. “Condoms. Please tell me that you have some. I wasn’t planning…” He was stammering even as he began to withdraw.
Panic rose inside of her. She should have considered this possibility. Of course, in this day and age of sexually transmitted diseases, people did not engage in unprotected casual sex. She should have planned for this contingency.
She lifted her hips, trying to draw him back inside of her. “Don’t worry. I’m on the pill,” she lied.
Of course, a woman like this would be. He remembered the fiancé. It made perfect sense. A career woman would not leave such things to chance.
“I’m clean.” Not that he could explain the regular check-ups that his job required. “I don’t usually,” he stammered.
He felt her move beneath him, those hips that fit perfectly in his hands arched up. He sank deeper inside of her. Her warm, wetness swallowed half his cock. He moaned at how snugly she fit him.
He could not remember the last time that he had had sex. His previous girlfriend had broken up with him well before his last assignment, so that was almost a year ago. At least that long. Besides, he could count on one hand the number of times that he had gone bareback. Actually, he could not remember a single time. As a bastard, it was not a risk he left up to the women in his life…not even girlfriends that he had known for months or years.
He was shocked as hell that he was even considering it with her. But who was he kidding? There was no way in heaven or hell that he could stop now. Not with the feel of her tight cunt wrapped around his hard cock. As crazy as it was, just once in his life, he was going to risk it. Risk everything to be with the woman he should not.
His hands tightened on her hips as she once more arched against him. Her hips moved in a slow erotic circle, as if trying to convince him of that which he had already decided. His fingers buried into the softness of her bottom as he drew her closer. Another couple of inches sank into her. They both moaned at the sensation.
He knew that this was not going to last long. It was too intense. But he knew too that even coming would not slake his thirst for her. He began to move then. Pounding into her. Deeper and deeper. Harder and faster. Her fingers sank into his shoulders, perhaps drawing blood, told him that the lady did not care. She welcomed the passion, the wildness that for once in his life, he had unleashed.
It was going to be a long night, as he felt the familiar tingling at the base of his spine spread to his balls. They tightened as he felt his orgasm fast approaching. He watched her face as she rode the waves of her powerful release. If she was pretty dressed in that power suit, if she were beautiful wearing just that damned matching bra and panty set, then she was ethereal with passion flowing through her into him.
Something shifted inside of him. Ryan had no words to describe it. Some knowing – some sense of something more profound. Some right. It was more than the gentle haze that seemed to envelop them in a warmth that spread not just from his raging hardon but through his whole body. It was like he had been asleep his entire life, and only in the arms of this woman could he awake.
It was all he could take as he plunged inside of her to the hilt. He exploded harder than he ever had, but he did not stop as he continued to pound her like a battering ram against the gates of an ancient citadel. Not even her unconditional surrender was slaking his need to possess this woman – if only for a night.
But that was the problem. Ryan knew – it would never be enough. One night with Laura Reynolds would never be enough. He would never find this again. This connection. This sense of rightness. This oneness with another human being. His mate? Was that possible?
And he had fucked it all up. There was no way he would ever have anything more than this. Not after tomorrow morning. He roared at the injustice of Fate even as his body once more found the release and completeness that it craved with his woman.
Laura tried to focus on the words on her computer screen. They did not make sense. Then again, she did not understand why she had been cc’d into the email to begin with. It was a private communique between Stephen McBride and her former fiancé Stewart Childress.
She frowned, correct that blind cc’d. But from whom? Considering she was one of Stephen’s least favorite employees right now, and likely the reason that she had been exiled here for the past four months, it really made no sense. Then again, nothing did this morning.
She lifted the coffee mug and swallowed. She almost spit out the hot liquid. She needed something stronger, much stronger than the herb tea that she had been drinking for the past month, just in case. As much as she craved the shot of caffeine that a strong cup of coffee would bring. That what-if kept her swilling this shit.
She thought back to last night. And this morning… They had stayed awake almost the whole night. They had had sex half a dozen times or more.
Sex did not cover what happened last night. It was much more than merely amazingly hot sex. She hesitated over the thought, but where her mind would not let her go, her heart forged ahead. Made love. They had made love all night long. And while that had not been part of the plan, she had to admit it made this whole plan seem…
Right. That was it. Right somehow. Perhaps that was why the artificial inseminations had failed. Maybe there was more than merely sperm meets egg to this whole thing? And while she had anticipated passion, welcomed it even, it was the tenderness that seemed to come so naturally between strangers that took her breath away.
So, why? Why had he left while she slept? The sun was beginning to stream in through the open curtain as she turned to her side and cocooned next to his big warm body. She had smiled as she thought about the possibility that she would conceive. She had fallen asleep to dream of babies with soft curly blond hair or at least a lighter brown than hers.
Only to wake to the alarm on her phone an hour later. Alone in that big cold bed. His clothes were gone. He had vanished like a ghost. She supposed it was for the best. She had not known how she was going to handle the morning after.
She had consoled herself with the hope that she might have achieved her purpose. Because after last night, there was every possibility that she was pregnant or perhaps soon would be. She had learned enough about human reproduction to know that it took hours, sometimes days, for the sperm to swim the few short inches to an egg.
She could well be conceiving her baby at this very moment, sitting in her office in front of the computer screen. It was a surreal feeling as she protectively cupped her lower abdomen.
She heard the door open and responded without looking up, “Lizzie, I thought I told you not to disturb me this morning.”
“I am not Lizzie, and I do not take orders from you, Miss Reynolds,” her stomach dropped.
She knew that voice. It had crooned and caressed her all night long. This morning, his tone was anything but the gentle and caring lover he had been then. She knew that tone, too. It was the one she used when she needed to take charge, to intimidate her downline.
Except now, it was turned on her. By him. She looked up into the eyes that just a couple of hours before had caressed her slowly, passionately. “Ryan?”
“Mister Ranger, please, Miss Reynolds,” as he handed an envelope across the desk to her.
Laura frowned as she studied the company logo and her name scrawled in bold letters across the front of it. Her stomach lurched as she opened it. She tried to focus as she scanned it. Then read and re-read it.
It was a termination notice. Effective immediately and signed by McBride himself. But none of it made sense. She tried to read it once more, but her stomach rolled, and her head pounded as the words blurred before her eyes.
This could not be happening. Not to her. Not now. She let the heavy piece of paper drop to the desk. She forced her gaze to meet his. He loomed over her. Last night, she had found his height and size reassuring, protective almost. But there was nothing protective about him this morning. He reminded her of a glacier, cold as ice and unmoving.
She finally found her voice enough to utter a single word, “Why?”